Two soldiers arrested in rural Texas for smuggling migrants
Stars and Stripes July 3, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — Two soldiers were arrested last month in a rural west Texas county that borders Mexico and charged with smuggling migrants into the United States, according to local law enforcement officials.
Spc. Desman Braxton, 22, and Sgt. Diamond Lampton, 27, were arrested June 18 in separate incidents in Kinney County while driving on a road commonly used to avoid U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints that are further north of the Rio Grande, according to Matt Benacci, spokesman for the county and its sheriff’s office.
Braxton is an active-duty nutrition care specialist assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio, which is located about 130 miles east of Kinney County, according to her service record. Lampton is a cannon crewmember with the Louisiana National Guard, according to her service record.
Neither was assigned to work on a mission at the border with the Defense Department or the state of Texas, according to the Louisiana National Guard and U.S. Northern Command, the combatant command tasked with overseeing the federal border mission.
Both arrests began on Ranch Road 674, which Benacci described as a hotspot for smuggling in the county. It is also rare that anyone from outside the county would be on the road, he said.
Braxton told law enforcement officers during a routine traffic stop that she was transporting a friend. It was determined by police that the friend was an undocumented person from Ecuador, Benacci said.
Hours later along the same road, police attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Lampton. She slowed down enough to let two people believed to be migrants out of the vehicle and then sped off again, Benacci said.
Deputies pursued her and Lampton crashed. The people who exited the vehicle were not found, he said.
Both soldiers were released with pending court dates for the charge of smuggling people, which became a felony in Texas through a law passed earlier this year. Benacci said they were released because there is a lack of jail space for women in the region.
The Defense Department has authorized roughly 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops to work along the southwest U.S. border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection with non-law enforcement duties. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also has ordered about 5,500 Texas National Guard troops to work along the border to assist state police in preventing human and drug smuggling between legal ports of entry.